This story was updated on 10 July 2019.
KwaZulu-Natal is the perfect long-weekend destination for those of us who live in Gauteng. It takes around 7 hours to get there and there are various kinds of accommodation to choose from.
Here are some of the best camping, glamping, luxury and family spots for the upcoming long weekend.
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1. Albert Falls Dam and Game Reserve, Albert Falls
Nestled between the rolling hills of the Karkloof Nature Reserve, you’ll find KZN’s largest dam, Albert Falls. Just 24km outside of Pietermaritzburg, this is a wonderfully welcoming family campsite with large, grassy camping stands spread over 3000 hectares of land. Spot game as soon as you arrive onsite, such as buck and zebra grazing along the banks of the dam.
Albert Falls is home to some of the best bass fishing in all of KZN’s dams, while children and teenagers are spoiled-for-choice with a swimming pool, playground, canoeing, sailing and water-skiing. The entire family can also enjoy the many walking trails amongst the reserve, picnicking, and water tubing. With pristine ablution blocks, electricity points, a small grocery store and takeaway facilities, Albert Falls’ camping sites are divided into two sections: Notuli, overlooking the nature reserve, and Pelican Bay overlooking the dam.
2. Alpine Heath Resort, Northern Drakensberg
I will always find a reason to go back to Alpine Heath Resort, which is situated close to the Royal Natal National Park in Kwazulu-Natal.
A corporate conference was my first reason for visiting but, soon after, we turned it into a midway overnight stop between the KZN South Coast and Gauteng. This time around, we had the opportunity to spend a relaxing weekend and explore even more of what this resort has on offer.
At night you won’t hear roaring lions, but you will hear the joyful laughter and chatter of kids of all ages returning to their 6-bed, self-catering chalets after attending the many activities on offer by the fun crew at the Market Village.
During the day, we had even more activities to choose from, including exercising in the gym, swimming, hiking, horse riding, cycling, enjoying a drink at the tavern, playing tennis or squash, having a massage, or eating at the restaurant, coffee shop or pizzeria.
But not all is about being busy: the ever-present views of the surrounding mountains, even when covered in mist, still offer complete serenity, like only mountains can. Then it hit us, as we arrived in Johannesburg. On our hike we never extracted the geocache hidden close to the waterfall. We have to go back.
+27 (0) 10 442 5888; [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
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3. Dolphin Holiday Resort, Ballito
A short 50km drive outside of Durban will bring you to this North Coast gem along the KZN coastline. Also within walking distance of the pristine beaches of Ballito, happy campers are often lucky enough to spot dolphins in the waves from the comfort of their loungers.
Surrounded by lush sub-tropical forest, the campsite is peaceful and well established with a number of well-shaded spots, electricity points with TV connections, a swimming pool, grocery store, restaurant, laundry room, children’s playground, pool tables, volleyball court and more.
+27 (0) 32 946 2187; [email protected]
4. Fairmont Zimbali Resort, Ballito
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If serenity and luxury are your main concerns, look no further.
I’ve been here multiple times, yet it always manages to take my breath away. Not only does each of the 150 rooms offer an unobstructed view of the tiered pool, and spectacular views of the ocean, the rooms are also tastefully decorated in traditional Zulu style, and the well-trained and friendly staff are always at the ready to lend a helping hand with any request.
he Zimbali Coastal Resort, in which the Fairmont Zimbali Resort is located, has multiple accommodation options, ranging from a five-star lodge to massive self-catering mansions. It is, simply put, the grandest way to enjoy the South Coast.
+27 (0) 32 538 5000; [email protected]
Words Gerhard Horn
5. Mac Nicol’s Caravan Park, Bazley Beach
Located just over an hour outside of Durban, this four-star camp site is a staple on the KZN South Coast and a long-standing family favourite. Literally 90-metres from a long stretch of beautiful, golden sand beach with a calm lagoon and plenty of children’s entertainment, Mac Nicol’s is an unrivalled family camping spot found in this region of the province.
With an extensive entertainment programme, morning tea and scones, bring and braai evenings and pancake nights, the team at Mac Nicol’s take hospitality seriously. The camping grounds offer eight private ablution blocks, large shaded camp sites, electricity, two swimming pools (heated in the winter months) and a small grocery store, which also serves takeaways.
Mac Nicol’s Caravan Park
+27 (0) 73 153 0818; [email protected]
6. Cape Vidal Campsite, iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Not quite in the province of KZN, but just a little further into the kingdom of Zululand you will find the unspoiled utopia that is Cape Vidal – making the approximate 4-hour drive out of Durban totally worth your while. The Cape Vidal Campsite is a true slice of paradise, tucked into the dune forest just behind a completely untouched golden sand beach that stretches out endlessly.
In the out-of-season months it can feel as though you have the entire campsite to yourself, making for the ultimate long weekend wind down. This spot is ideal for shore and ski-boat anglers, ocean and beach lovers and divers. The campsite is host to 50 camp stands as well as self-catering cabins, a small grocery store, braai facilities and ablution blocks. As it is found within the protected iSimangaliso Wetland Park, there are game drives available nearby as well as picnic sites and walking trails- an ideal nature lover’s delight.
+27 (0) 33 845 1000; [email protected]
7. Hlalanathi Berg Resort, Northern Drakensberg
Tucked away in a beautiful, secluded valley is this family favourite at the foothills of the Northern Drakensberg. The site offers fully serviced chalets (if camping in the cold is not your thing) or beautiful, large caravan and camping stands overlooking the Tugela River and Amphitheatre.
Hlalanathi is located halfway between Gauteng and the KZN coast, and is a good 2.5 – 3 hour drive outside of Durban, making for a true city getaway. This modern campsite is host to its own restaurant, swimming pool, tennis courts, laundry, grocery store and also features hiking trails, bass fishing, horse riding and the 9-hole Amphitheatre Golf Course, located right next door.
+27 (0) 36 438 6308; [email protected]
8. Ocean Gaze B&B, Ramsgate
The ‘Gaze’ in Ocean Gaze has a double meaning in that it refers to the surname of owners, Ken and Clare, and speaks of a view that will make you stop and stare. Positioned just above Ramsgate’s Blue Flag beach, Ocean Gaze is a fabulously appointed B&B offering everything you could wish for when staying at the beach – a central location; a warm welcome from hosts who, being long-time residents of Ramsgate, can tell you all the bests spots; luxury accommodation; and a bed so comfortable you might not want to get up in the morning.
And certainly, if your reason for going to Ramsgate is simply to gaze at the ocean, you won’t have to get out of bed as all four suites are sea-facing. But that would mean you’d miss out on Clare’s delicious vegetarian breakfasts. And if vegetarian isn’t your style, a voucher buys you an alternative breakfast at the famous Waffle House down the road.
+27 (0) 82 336 8133; [email protected]
Words Andrea Abbott
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9. Amble Inn Guest House, Shelly Beach
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As thoroughbred Vaalies, a regular beach holiday is a must and what could be better than a comfortable, self-catering beach house for a small family, set in a garden just a few stairs up from the beach. Close to all amenities, yet shielded from road noise by the caretaker’s cottage, it has one double, en-suite bedroom with a large oval bath and shower. A second bedroom has two single beds and a bathroom with shower. We loved the spacious lounge, dining room, and kitchen fully equipped for four – it even has a dishwasher.
The unit has air conditioning, a lock-up garage and laundry facilities. It’s a home away from home that begs you to put your feet up and relax. With its built-in braai, the patio was our favourite spot. Breakfast, afternoon snacks and sundowners were enjoyed in the well-maintained garden. Sea views and the sound of crashing waves are included in the price. All seven Blue Flag beaches in the area are within easy reach and make for a great day on the beach.
+27 (0) 83 274 3305; [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
10. Ambleside Lodge, Underberg
Family holidays aren’t always easy – what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. You need to find a place with activities that the family can enjoy either as a group or individually. Ambleside Lodge is such a place, with something that should appeal to every member of the family.
It’s a self-catering lodge that sleeps eight in four bedrooms (three en suite), with a fully equipped kitchen and an enormous wrap-around veranda with mountain views. In addition to the lodge, there is a quaint thatched cottage on the property that sleeps another 8-10 people, making it the perfect getaway for up to four families – and that’s how childhood memories are made. In terms of activities, Ambleside takes advantage of the spectacular surrounding countryside – there’s tubing and swimming in the river, fishing in the river or in a myriad of local dams, sensational hiking, great birding, horse riding, and the use of all the Sani Spoors mountain-biking and running trails.
If that’s not enough, guests at Ambleside have access to all the activities at the Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens Golf and Spa Resort, which is not far up the road.
+27 (0) 74 366 7976; [email protected]
Words Stephen Smith